Guest Reviewer: Susie Klein
Full Title: Call of A Coward: The God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife
Author: Marcia Moston
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2012)
Number of Pages: 184
How long it took me to read: 3 days
Where I got this book: from the publisher to write an unbiased review
Like a Moth to a Flame
I was attracted to the book by its title. I loved the humility and honesty of Moston’s admission to seeing herself as a coward. It gave me the impression that this would not be a pie-in-the-sky woo woo book full of fairy tales about ministry life. Moston would not be writing about how strong and brave she was for going to live in a foreign country for a year or more. The title also told me that this book would not be a glossed over story of a sugary sweet ministry experience; I already own and have read far too many of those types of books. As a woman in ministry myself, I was hungry for a realistic story that could remind me of why I do what I do.
I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:
5. “I lowered the sheet from over my head. Slits of daylight squeezed through the gaps in the curtains and tumbled into the room. My eyes swept the walls, probing every corner. The eight-inch lizard that had disappeared behind the curtain the night before was nowhere in sight.” (p.7)
4. “Those kicking and screaming death-throes moments when you realize you aren’t and you can’t are God’s opportunities to show you he is and he can.” (p.33)
3. “God, the author of time, space and order, seldom punches our clocks or stays in our size-specified boxes. When he wants to engage a heart, renew a mind, and save a soul, anytime, anywhere, anyhow will do.” (p.43)
2. “Some things can’t be seen by looking at them head-on. Like a dim star in a dark sky. At first glance it appears to be there, but when you stare at the spot, is disappears. Then, just as you turn your head away, it reappears in your peripheral vision…you just had to change your perspective to catch it.” (p.137)
…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…
1. “They had a fortitude and strength for survival. Although I couldn’t carry a basket on my head or a baby in a blanket on my back, I suspected a woman’s heart beat the same no matter where in the world she walked, and I was restless to get beyond the veil of the foreigner.” (pp.71-2)
Conversation with the Reader
While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:
“I love Moston’s candor and honesty. Her first thoughts upon hearing her pastor husband suggest they all move to Guatemala for a year were, ‘Guatemala is a violent and dangerous place. Thousands of people have been killed in its civil war, and it’s not even over!’ (p.17) They had an eleven-year-old daughter to consider as well. But she quickly dismissed the idea and just went on with her home redecorating project.
“Many Christians would never admit to having doubts and serious terror as a response to a possible call from the Lord. I appreciate her openness about her inner doubts and fears. Moston takes us through her thought process and her conversations with God. She shares how she rationalized, argued, worried and then arrived at this conclusion:
“Finally, unable to get my mind around all the problems, practicalities, and possibilities, I came to the conclusion there were only two choices—either God was or he wasn’t both supreme and personal. I was certain he was supreme, and the despair of imagining a life devoid of a personal God far surpassed any fear I had for our safety. And so, standing there in our kitchen with an obstinate conviction that this was what we were called to do, I surrendered to the fact that the One who revealed himself to Moses as I AM was substantially greater than all my ‘what-ifs’. I turned to Bob and agreed, ‘We need to go to Guatemala.’ ” (p.20)
“There is a very real tendency for American pastors and missionaries to begin to believe we deserve to be highly honored and respected, simply because we’re doing what God asked us to do. People are grateful when we’re able to comfort them and say just the right things to help them feel better. On the mission field or in poverty-stricken areas of the United States, a minister will spend his or her days literally serving the people, by setting up food kitchens, medical help and, of course, offering spiritual guidance and comfort. The poor are grateful and cannot help but admire and look up to us because we meet their need in a time of trouble. But sadly, this gratitude and honor is easily corrupted and the tendency to take that honor inward rather than give the credit to God and our simple obedience, is just too easy. But Moston never gives the impression that the sacrifices she made turned her into a better Christian than the people she served, either in the United States or in a foreign country. Reading her book made me feel like we could be good friends. In fact, she sounds exactly like most of the people I have in my life.”
“I appreciate the lack of pretension in the author’s voice. This is the story of an ordinary woman. She could be any one of us. I have spent time in the Philippines, Fiji and even smuggled Bibles into China, doing exactly what Moston was doing. I was afraid most of the time, surrounded by a completely different culture and language. On a small isolated island in Fiji, I walked from hut to hut praying for the sick, while keeping in mind that we were not allowed to look the man of the ‘house’ in the eye and had agreed to eat whatever was offered. So, I can easily identify with her fears and victories of living outside her comfort zone. It was totally worth leaving my own safe zone after I saw people relieved of pain for the first time in years.”
“Moston and her family begin to feel that their time in Guatemala is coming to an early end. The combination of a difficult bout of hepatitis alongside other challenges stateside all add up to the need and desire to return to the United States even though they have no job or ministry situation awaiting them.
“It can be a very difficult time of testing and fear when a minister and his family are between assignments. Speaking from personal experience, because that’s precisely where I find myself today after over 25 years in full-time vocational ministry, it stinks. But the Mostons were encouraged by a Bible verse that Marcia read one morning when she opened her it to a random page. She read Jeremiah 49:11 which states, ‘Leave your orphans behind, I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in me.’ Their worries about the people they had come to love lift, they set up several financial back-ups, and eventually find others to continue their work. It’s those small signs that make even the most difficult situations suddenly easy.”
“In Call of a Coward, Mosten tells us how she questions God about the purpose of their entire time in Guatemala. She wonders if the whole adventure had been a mistake, soon to be forgotten. After all, it ended up bringing them back to the States, to an ordinary and very old-school church pastorship position in Vermont, making it feel as if they had never left the U.S. at all.
“But as the new ministry job develops, they discover that their time and experiences in foreign countries was not a waste at all; it was a preparation for dozens of short-term missionary teams they would lead to places of need in other parts of the world. Moston ends the book with this reflection of clarity:
“As I looked around the bus, I thought of all the people we had been able to take to the mission field because of connections we made that year we had so blindly followed God to a remote village on a Mayan mountainside.
“Then, the move to the church in Vermont had seemed so random—so disconnected from anything we were planning, and yet it all fit together. From Guatemala to Vermont to Mexico, Costa Rica, and finally back again to Guatemala. Each leg of the journey, I saw the handiwork of the One who makes cowards courageous, ordinary lives purposeful, and dried-up dreams fruitful.” (p.183)
“This little book gives me hope that I am not done yet. That even at the grand age of 57, the experiences of my past will still be used in my future in some way that helps others and gives me purpose.”